Labor Day

Photo by Roman: May Day, Chicago, 2006.

Labor Day isn’t, really, unless you mean something like: Last call for alcohol; it’s the end of summer and time to get back to work. Also, while the idea for the holiday has its roots in organized labor, my humble opinion is that it amounts to President Grover Cleveland’s weak grin in the direction of old Sam Gompers (Gompers was born old.) and what remained of the railway Brotherhoods (fergitabout Debs). I mean… a buncha states had already adopted the holiday or something similar, but when originally enacted, the Federal version only applied to Federal employees…

Anyway, let’s celebrate the occasion of Labor’s day in the USA with something from the UK, The Longest Johns:

“Broken Ties”

A hat-tip to Hettie D. because that blog is where I was introduced to this documentary. Hettie highly recommended “watching this movie to all my friends who ask me “how Russian people feel about what’s going on”. There are English subtitles.”

This is a feature length video, however, so you should probably bookmark the video for when you have some time to be engaged with it. The documentary was directed by Russian journalist and independent filmmaker Andrey Loshak. The documentary was produced for Current Time. For the hyper-partisan amongst us, yes: Current Time is a project of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and I’m just fine with that. If you are not then you probably ought to watch the documentary, but I won’t argue.

I left this documentary with some observations that are difficult to write about, mainly because anyone reading what I have to say before watching the documentary will likely be misled regarding its content. This is, in essence, a love story that follows several families who span the Ukraine / Russia divide. It is about the fear, anger and bewilderment that comes when someone you intimately know and love becomes repugnantly alien in an existentially fraught situation.

And that fraught situation is the “politics by other means” of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Having been active in protesting the Vietnam war (among others), I found the documentary to be distressingly familiar. I leave doing a compare-and-contrast re: Vietnam and Ukraine to you, dear reader, but it’s worth pointing out that it is not at all clear how much the U.S. anti-war movement influenced government policy. Certainly it was a decisive influence on a good many political careers, but the war dragged on. I suspect whatever constraints the movement placed on actual policy was secondary to the disintegration of the U.S. military in Vietnam: the fragging, drug use, refusal of orders, not to mention the occasional racial conflict. There are stories suggesting something similar is happening to the Russian military in Ukraine, but the context is different… so who knows what will happen?

Vote Tuesday, June 28

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Mural just south of Addison Street on Clark Street. There’s a second panel but a vehicle was blocking the shot. Photo by Roman.

The 2022 Illinois Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 28. It is your last opportunity to help chose your party’s candidates for the November general election by casting your vote in person, assuming you’re either a Democrat or a Republican.

For more information regarding polling places and candidates, consult your local board of election web site. You can find this plus additional information at the Illinois State Board of Election. Residents of Chicago can go directly to Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners.

Use it or lose it.

Illinois Votes! 2022

Mural just south of Addison Street on Clark Street. There’s a second panel but a vehicle was blocking the shot. Photo by Roman.


The 2022 primary election in Illinois began this week and will conclude on election day: June 28, 2022. For more information, start with the Illinois State Board of Elections.  For some things, you’ll end up at your local county’s board of elections web site. So if you live in Chicago, go directly to Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners.

This election is conducted by the governments of Illinois on behalf of whatever parties have jumped through the challenges required to gain the golden fleece of official recognition. In Illinois, this means the Democratic and Republican brands though there may be more choices where you live.

By taking a party ballot, you become a member of that party in the sight of the law… even if for only one brief moment until you repent. But that choice remains a matter of public record.

The election will determine each party’s nominees for the November General Election and will elect members of each party’s governing committees. (Yes, once your party has that official recognition, much of your party’s structure is mandated by state law.)

It is true that there are a good many contests whose outcomes won’t be particularly meaningful. My way of dealing with that is to simply not vote in those contests. But I can almost always find one or more contests of interest. Really, I can’t think of any political work lasting about a half hour that would be more consequential than the half hour spent casting your vote.


* For those interested in third parties and different voting systems, allow me to recommend Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News as a news source about what is happening in legislatures and courts about elections and voting.

Two Upcoming Events

Haymarket Martyrs’ monument, the old Waldheim Cemetery. Photo by Roman.

May Day, the international Labor Day, is very much my holiday. Here are two upcoming events for those of you in the Chicago area. I would be very inclined to do both if I had my way. I would then also say: “See you there!” But alas I am a geezerly male and so that makes making such commitments a chancy thing. Maybe, then.

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Chicago’s Haymarket Free Speech memorial. Photo by Roman.

Haymarket Square May Day Commemoration

Sunday, May 1, 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
DesPlaines St between Randolph and Lake, Chicago

“Italian unionists from the Federation of Metallurgical and Office Workers (FiOM) will join the ILHS at 12:30 p.m. on May Day, Sunday, May 1, to unveil their commemorative plaque on the Haymarket’s Square statue’s base. The base features plaques from labor movements around the globe, marking May 1 as International Workers’ Day.”

For more information, visit the Illinois Labor History Society’s calendar entry.

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DSAer Dave Rathke tends to the Mother Jones balloon. Photo by Roman.

Mother Jones’ Birthday Party

Sunday, May 1, 4 PM to 6 PM
Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox, Chicago

Guest will include Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson, Irish General Consul Kevin Byrne, artist Lindsay Hand, musicians Paddy Homan, Kathy Cowen and the SAG-AFTRA singers, with emcee Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Don Villar.

Admission is free but RSVP please at the Mother Jones Museum calendar where there is also more information.

“Zeppelins”

April is National Poetry Month, and for the occasion Frank Hudson’s Parlando Project has been producing a series of “Lyric Videos” based on audio recordings of the poems done previously. The month is not even half over, but (so far) Hudson’s performance of “Zeppelins” by F.S. Flint is my favorite, though “Dunbar” is not far behind.

And of course, the poem is also so very appropriate to what is once again happening in Europe these days, not to mention elsewhere in the world none of which I’m not going to mention as I’m sure to shamefully leave somewhere or two off the list…

The term “lyric video” is also new to me though the practice is… not new. As a concept, though, it wraps up and gathers together poetry as oral interpretation and poetry as literature. As a bonus, one can throw in ancillary aspects like music, musicality, concrete poetry just to name-drop a few. Is pretty cool concept, methinks.

Pity Ukraine:

So close to Russia… So far from God…

Pity may rank near the bottom of what Ukrainians need right now, but savvy readers might notice the above is derived from what Mexicans have been saying about Mexico and the United States. Some will be offended because the same savvy readers, being hip to the ways of polemics, will anticipate a tantrum of what-about-isms, so let’s get that out of the way: Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico… I could toss in Hawaii and more, but you should have gotten the idea. If not, you have homework to do. Some might say these offenses are ancient history… Surely there is a statute of limitations that has passed? Well then, need I mention “weapons of mass destruction” and two recent U.S. Presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, who had no respect whatsoever for international institutions unless occasionally as a fig leaf to be discarded when convenient.

I do not present these as a means of deflecting or obfuscating: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is wrong. And it is dangerous, at one extreme leading to World War III and at another extreme leading to the break-up of Russia and at another extreme an endless parade of resource wars and accelerating arms races, including nuclear weapons for all. But our own sins are worth remembering because beyond individual behavior, moral arguments are mostly just useful to entertain those who need to pass judgements, and maybe for morale and winning elections.

Sanctions will not save Ukraine and any meaningful outside intervention runs a very real risk of a wider war — though if the Russian military is stalemated for a while, the threat of such intervention might inspire diplomacy… maybe. I don’t know. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

(Belarus is already more or less a part of Russia through its 2000 “Union State” treaty with Russia. Lukashenko, however, had best watch his back as those Russian troops are likely to remain in Belarus for As Long As Necessary. Now smile!)

What I do know is that here in the States, the political left is screwed. Again. Just as after the 9/11 attack, there will be money for weapons and fear will veto much of anything else, not to mention the unfortunate tendency among some parts of the left to imagine imperialism to be a behavior manifest exclusively by United States. Ideologues know how to win arguments but not much else.

I really don’t want to get back to doing political activism. Would you care to do it for me? Please?

“Railroad Workers Barred from Striking”

While I still keep a wary eye on politics (broadly defined, not just elections), most of it just doesn’t seem that interesting (outside of immediate hazards) these days.*

But in this case, the story below had popped up on one or more of the news lists I follow out of a lifelong interest in trainspotting. Those accounts were rather sparse on the details. The account below, from the More Perfect Union YouTube channel, provides rather more detail…

…with maybe the “draconian” dial turned up a notch or so. Not that I’m complaining. The More Perfect Union website is worth a visit.


*Oh, yes: it is most certainly me and not politics that has changed. But since I’ve “retired” from activism, the details have changed enough that they begin to obscure rather than to inform.